Summary:

HTC’s CEO Peter Chou said that his company is building an LTE phone for 2011, but didn’t specify which carrier or operating system the device will support. Even a non-psychic can figure it out though, as all of the clues are right in front of us.

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HTC, the Taiwan company that continues to churn out hot handsets, will offer a smartphone next year that supports faster LTE networks. HTC’s CEO, Peter Chou, shared the news with Fierce Wireless in a recent interview, but provided no additional details on the device nor the carriers the phone will support. Now that Chou let the cat out the bag, compelling evidence and educated guesses tell me this will be an Android handset running on the Verizon Wireless network.

Without an Apple iPhone to offer yet, Verizon latched on to Google’s Android platform nearly a year ago. Nearly all the top-selling smartphones on Verizon’s network since then have been Android devices: the Droid and Droid X from Motorola, the HTC Incredible and Samsung’s Fascinate all come to mind. Verizon isn’t among the early launch partners for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, so it’s more likely that Verizon sticks with its Android addiction for this particular handset.

But why is Verizon the most likely candidate for an LTE phone in the first place? Although MetroPCS was officially the first U.S. carrier to launch an LTE phone this past week, Verizon has planned for a more widespread, aggressive LTE rollout although it’s being coy with data plan pricing. The carrier previously said it would launch an LTE network this year in 25 to 30 markets that would cover 100 million people. And Verizon CTO, Dick Lynch, has said LTE smartphones will arrive in 2011. AT&T is the only other major U.S. carrier that has an announced LTE upgrade path, but it expects to launch LTE in mid-2011 and will cover up to 75 million people by the end of next year. As a result, it’s a safe bet that HTC is building the phone for Verizon.

Regardless of which carrier is getting the phone and what operating system it will run, HTC continues to lead the pack when it comes to the newest handset technologies. The company was the first to build a WiMAX phone for the U.S. in the HTC EVO 4G, so it would be fitting if HTC beats Samsung, Motorola and others to the punch with the first LTE smartphone here. It’s this kind of tenacity and vision that landed Chou on our list of top 15 mobile influencers that we unveiled in support of our Mobile event next week. At this rate, it looks like Chou is on track to make the list in 2011, too.

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